Rued Langgaard: Rose Garden Songs
04 November 2009
Rued Langgaard (1893-1952), despite the resurgence of his music today in many quarters, has very much
been a prophet without honor in his own country. The Dane was not especially popular during his lifetime as
an intransigent and formidable academic avantgarde kept him fenced out from more mainstream (and
underground) musical thought. And his reputation now as a fine symphonist obscures the quality and very
lovable attributes that we find in his choral music, presented here almost in its entirety.
Langgaard was a composer who sought to continue the romantic tradition found in such composers as Niels
Gade. His choral work is melodic and gorgeously conceived, always keeping the words in focus and not
cluttering up the melody with harmonies that are too obtrusive, though his harmonies can indeed be complex,
some of them even reminding me of English composer Herbert Howells. The first works on this disc are my
favorite here, the lovely "Alluring Sounds", "The Milkmaid", and "The Harvest Bird", followed by the
namesake of the album, Rose Garden Songs, perhaps distinguished by its use of timbre and harmony as
opposed to melody. Langgaard refuses to be pigeonholed, and offers us fresh takes in each work according to
the muse he felt based on his texts.
Even the large number of motets and hymn melodies given here express a symbolism and romantic ethos that
inspired a reactionary element in Danish music, our composer not being associated with this in any way. He
steadfastly rejected the notion of enhanced use of Reformation melodies and a jettisoning of the romantic
spirit. As a result, these wonderful pieces are heard through the spirit of the 19th century, unapologetically
manipulated for maximum emotion effect.
This is an SACD version of a 1997 release, and welcome it is, the enhanced surround in no way sounding
like a beefed-up artificial manipulation. The Ars nova Copenhagen performs this music with evident
affection, and if your choral collection needs some refreshing, you've found a perfect starting place.